Friday 23 February 2018

Councillor 'spent hundreds' at top Dublin restaurants but failed to pay off a €33k personal injury claim, court hears

Councillor John O’Donnell from Donegal filmed in a meeting with an undercover reporter for the RTÉ Investigates – Standards in Public Office programme.
Councillor John O’Donnell from Donegal filmed in a meeting with an undercover reporter for the RTÉ Investigates – Standards in Public Office programme.

Greg Harkin

A COUNCILLOR at the centre of corruption allegations has been ordered by a judge today to re-start payments to a woman who won a compensation order against him.

Cllr John O’Donnell, who featured in an RTE Investigates programme in December, appeared for the second time in a month at Letterkenny District Civil Court today over outstanding payments of €33,000.

The court heard he had spent hundreds of euro in recent months on clothes and trips to top Dublin restaurants.

Cllr O'Donnell had failed pay off a personal injury claim to Petra Kucklick, of Rooskey, Creeslough, Co Donegal, which was ruled upon in 2008.

It relates to an incident in 2000 in which Cllr O'Donnell had run over Ms Kucklick's foot with his car.

Cllr O’Donnell stopped paying a €200-per-week compensation order in 2009.

Today Cllr O’Donnell was recalled to the witness box by Judge Paul Kelly who warned O’Donnell’s solicitor Kevin McElhinney that his client was in danger of going to jail for failing to comply with the compensation order.

The independent councillor and former Independent Fianna Fail supporter was cross-examined by counsel for Ms Kucklick Laura O’Reilly over what she alleged was an “extravagant” lifestyle.

She said updated bank statements showed he spent €960 at Watson’s Menswear in Letterkenny in December just days before the RTE expose.

He had also spent hundreds of euro on meals at Café en Seine in December and Peploes in January where the bill was €350.

He had also spent hundreds of euro at hotels and bars in Donegal over the same period, she alleged.

However Cllr O’Donnell said the menswear bill included presents for family and that the food bills had involved him paying bills and a number of friends paying him cash.

He also said some of the money which appeared to be spent in local premises involved cash back because the ATM in Kilmacrennan “has been broken for years”.

He also denied owning a Porche and two BMWs which he appeared to claim ownership of in his Facebook postings.

As a result of the case today, said the politician, he had been left with no option but to apply for bankruptcy.

He claimed banks to which he owed millions of euro had been willing to consider a Personal Insolvency Plan (PIP) but claimed Ms Kucklick had “driven” him to bankruptcy.

The politician said the case against him was intended to “blacken my good name in the media again”.

Judge Paul Kelly said he was satisfied that while O’Donnell did have more money in the past “I am not permitted under the law to punish him retrospectively.”

He said he believed Cllr O’Donnell was able to pay €100 per week and varied the payment order.

“If that isn’t met I will take an entirely different view of the matter,” said the judge.

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